Photo courtesy of NextGen Real Estate

There are “custom” homes and there are “spec” homes, and nothing in between — right? Well, not exactly.

Enter Elevated Custom Homes. According to the luxury Houston-based construction firm, there is a sweet spot between “custom” and “spec” where homeowners can get significant savings on the build price without compromising on that luxury look and feel.

Dream it
Custom doesn’t always mean custom. It’s a hard reality to accept, having finally taken the plunge into the new construction market, but this is how it is for many in the process of building their own dream homes. The plans are in motion and suddenly they find themselves constrained by the creative limitations of their builder.

This was the first problem that Henry Kahn, VP of business development and operations at Elevated Custom Homes, set out to address.

With their origins in interior design, the company places a premium on creative possibility and current trends. Long before they broke ground on their own construction projects, they would advocate for their design clients in planning meetings with custom builders.

“It was always so hard to persuade builders to break out of their comfort zone, to do anything more than what they had always done,” explains Kahn. “The reality was that our clients were paying for custom homes and receiving spec homes. We knew we could do better.”

Twenty-five years since they first began helping clients dream up more beautiful interiors, the signature “Elevated” process was born. Now dreaming is the first step of a bespoke service that results in a truly custom home, both inside and out.

Build it
"Dream it. Build it. Love it." As a tagline, it’s simple, but it encapsulates how Elevated Custom Homes has streamlined and simplified the process of helping clients turn their vision into reality.

So what can you expect from this one-stop shop for custom homes?

With representation from every step of the build process on the management team, their in-house experts help you to refine your ideas, either by starting from scratch or by browsing their gallery of existing plans.

Next is evaluating suitable lots, acquiring land, and securing all the relevant permits so that construction can begin.

Throughout these various steps, you can expect full transparency and frequent communication — again, one of the many ways Elevate outclasses its competitors.

Love it
Finally, those carefully considered interior selections and designer features fall into place. This is the moment when what could be “just” a solidly built house is transformed into an exquisitely finished home.

Is this where the “love” comes into it?

“Honestly, yes,” says Kahn. “Because of who we are and where we have come from, our workflow encompasses so many of the things that make a real difference to how a home looks, but more importantly feels. Whether that’s furniture that fits or wall-to-wall design, this is what our clients tell us they enjoy most about the experience of working with us.”

“Design is in our DNA.”
But what if you need a little more help with ideation? The designers at Elevated Custom Homes have what they describe as “custom” spec homes, too: a turnkey, move-in ready home with a luxury look and feel.

Take 1509 Story Street, for example, listed by NextGen Real Estate.

The lot has been acquired, the permitting secured, and construction is well underway. But instead of the “builder grade” and “upgraded” options for would-be homeowners to pick from, Elevated has curated design packages from a range of affordable, high-end suppliers.

“We are continually revising and refreshing our design specifications,” explains Kahn. “As a small, family-run firm, we have the advantage of moving with the times and staying current, as well as accommodating the input of our clients — even in a spec home. For many builders, this is the first place they will try to impose restrictions and pad out the profit margins, but design is in our DNA. We can’t and won’t compromise on that.”

Back when interior design was its sole concern, Elevated made a name for itself finishing custom-built homes to higher specifications — and for lower prices — than their clients were quoted by the builder.

Vertical integration was a matter of time. What began as Elevated Interior Design became Elevated Custom Homes, and has blossomed into Elevated Investment and Construction, which oversees various forthcoming new developments around Greater Houston.

An elevated experience
Elevated Custom Homes has identified the pitfalls of the existing model and “elevated” its offerings accordingly. As a boutique company with its origins in design, they pay particular attention to client experience.

These terms of engagement were immediately recognizable to Julia Wang, CEO of NextGen Real Estate.

“From their website to their social media presence, I knew that Elevated was a custom builder with a difference,” reflects Wang. “They were focused not just on the deliverables, but on the experience, and that really resonated with me and what I believe is important about doing business in real estate today.”

NextGen is no stranger to creativity and innovation, not to mention challenging industry norms. As the fastest-growing boutique brokerage in Texas, Wang’s 2020 start-up has made convincing moves into a number of markets once dominated by the big box brokerages, including commercial and luxury residential real estate.

Recently ranked the overall No. 1 Realtor on Instagram, Wang communicates in an authentic voice that the next generation of buyers finds compelling. And it is this exposure — this hotline to the homeowners of tomorrow — that Kahn believes will help get the word about his “custom” spec home product.

“The type of homes we typically build — ultramodern, all-stucco, with high-end contemporary finishes and fixtures — are very attractive to buyers looking for luxury at a reasonable pricepoint,” he says.

1509 Story
It’s a story not often told: a neighbor falls so totally in love with the finish of your home that they ask to “cut and paste” it into the home they are buying around the corner.

But that is exactly what happened when the would-be owners of 6622 Saxet Street, another Elevated property listed for sale with NextGen, laid eyes on 1509 Story Street.

Originally conceived as having a contemporary Shaker design package, the buyers saw the proposed spec of the neighboring property and requested a wholesale switch — something that Elevated Custom Homes was delighted to accommodate.

And it is easy to see why these buyers’ heads were turned: The kitchen and bathrooms are a top 10 of everything that is trending right now, with black and gold hardware, Calacatta quartz, full-glass wine room, and European-style flat front cabinets. The matte-finish oak floors throughout bring warmth and dimensionality, as does the textured accent wall and tub surround in the primary suite.

Contemporary but not cold, high-end yet packed with personality — these are the delicate balances that only a designer can strike.

“I love it when a deal has a backstory like this,” enthuses Wang. “And I love it even more when it comes together so seamlessly! There aren’t many builders who would see these accommodations as acceptable, let alone desirable. But at Elevated they are designers first, builders second. They just get it, and that is everythingin this business.”

Elevated x NextGen
And there are more stories to tell, such as 920 Patterson Street: a brand-new Rice Military townhome with those signature Elevated design features, plus a roof terrace, artificial grass, and an outdoor kitchen.

Or 7206 Dearborn Street, where the tech specs are top-notch and the design elements are everything you would choose if you could design the home of your dreams (and you also had exceptional taste).

When two challenger brands unite is where the magic happens.

With a mutual focus on delivering this boutique experience and demanding better industry standards overall, the Elevated Group and NextGen Real Estate have doubled down to level up their offering of beautifully imagined and well priced homes throughout Greater Houston.

\u200bHenry Kahn, VP at Elevated Custom Homes

Photo courtesy of NextGen Real Estate

Henry Kahn, VP at Elevated Custom Homes, believes there is a better way to build spec homes in Houston.


Contact Julia Wang and her team to tour one of the properties discussed in this article, or to secure a premium lot to build your dream home with Elevated Custom Homes.

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Top things to do in Houston this  weekend: Big Beyoncé takeover, a cool pool party, and more


This weekend, the biggest female pop icon in the world comes home for her wildly popular Renaissance World Tour stops at NRG Stadium. To honor local girl — and now queen — Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, locals have been shopping for that perfect fit to slay like Bey (check out our guide here) and hitting special Beyoncé-themed events (see more here).

While this weekend is rightfully dominated with all things Queen Bey, plenty of other fun activities await. Cooler temps mean more outdoor fun at the Houston Arboretum, East River, and the Dew Berry Farm Festival. Some hilarious comedians hit town, and the insider-y El Segundo Swim Club makes a splash as we say farewell to summer.

El Segundo Swim ClubDive into a chill weekend at El Segundo Swim Club.Photo courtesy of El Segundo Swim Club

Enjoy; here are your best bets for this Beyoncé homecoming weekend.

Thursday, September 21

Houston Arboretum presents Sip & Stroll

The start of fall will be celebrated with the Houston Arboretum’s Sip & Stroll outdoor event. Participants will enjoy a quiet evening out on the arboretum trails. The sunset walk will include two glasses of wine or Saint Arnold beer, cheese and charcuterie offerings from GRAZE HTX, and a specialty wine glass to take home. New to this year’s event, participants will enjoy an additional wine tasting featuring a variety of wines from The Cause Urban Winery, founded by Jennifer Rossi. 5:30 pm.

Nerdy Night Market at Neil’s Bahr

Nerdy Night Market will be back outdoors in the Neil's Bahr Cantina lot, giving you more space, more vendors, and the perfect opportunity to hang out, enjoy drinks al fresco, and connect with your favorite nerdy enthusiasts. Join them for an evening of geeky treasures, great company, and the coolest finds you won't want to miss. From collectibles to unique creations, there’s something for every geek and pop-culture enthusiast to explore. Must be 21 or older to attend. 6 pm.

6 Degrees presents POP DEMO

6 Degrees premieres Toni Leago Valle’s dance/theatre experience, a blend of political commentary, offbeat theatre, aerial, contemporary dance, and visual projections, set in a stylistic Pop Art décor. The performance provides a historical perspective through cartoons of how the ideas of popular democracy, extremism, and propaganda have shaped and warped American political and cultural beliefs, ultimately attempting to overthrow democracy. 7:30 pm (2 and 7 pm Saturday).

Friday, September 22

Houston Art Gallery Association Fall Celebration

As visitors wander through the Houston Art Gallery Association member galleries on Friday and Saturday, they will embark on an enlightening journey where each gallery offers a unique experience. From contemporary masterpieces that challenge traditional notions of beauty to thought-provoking installations pushing boundaries, HAGA encapsulates the vibrant diversity of artistry in Houston. Galleries include Anya Tish Gallery, Foltz Fine Art, Foto Relevance, Heidi Vaughan Fine Art, Koelsch Gallery, Thornwood Gallery and many others. Noon.

East River presents Live Music Weekends

East River 9 will be kicking off Live Music Weekends, which will happen every Friday and Saturday night through December. All ages are invited to experience free, live musical performances while taking in unmatched views of Buffalo Bayou and the city skyline on the expansive, open-air terrace. The fall artist lineup is sure to make a splash with a wide variety of local and regional musicians. Kicking things off will be Lucas Jagneaux on Friday and the Sheila Marshall Duo on Saturday. 7 pm.

Alley Theatre presents American Mariachi

Family, love, and tradition are at the core of this heartwarming play about the freedom to dream big. It’s the 1970s and girls can’t be mariachis … or can they? Will Lucha and her spunky cousin hunt for bandmates, dodge disapproving relatives, and bring Mom along for the ride? This play is infused with vibrant, infectious, live mariachi music and reminds us how music and love can make the impossible come true. Through Sunday, October 22. 8 pm (2:30 and 8 pm Saturday; 2:30 and 7:30 pm Sunday).

Ilana Glazer Live!

Ilana Glazer is mostly known as the co-star/co-creator of the Comedy Central show Broad City. But along with movies and TV, she’s also out here doing her stand-up thing. Her debut stand-up comedy special, The Planet Is Burning, is on Amazon Prime. She is also the co-founder of the non-profit Generator Collective, which defines minimal civic engagement and aims to humanize policy through people-powered stories on social media. 8 pm.

Saturday, September 23

Dewberry Farm Fall Festival

Every Saturday and Sunday, Dewberry Farm's Fall Festival will feature fun, pumpkins, food, and over 40 rides and attractions. Visitors can explore the pumpkin patch, paint pumpkins, follow a trail of glowing jack-o-lanterns inside "Pumpkin Hollar!," take photos by the life-sized pumpkin house, spin out on the new Jumping' Jacks ride, meet barnyard animals, and get lost in the 8-acre, Houston Astros-themed corn maze. Through Sunday, November 12. 10 am.

End of Summer Weekend at El Segundo Swim Club

El Segundo Swim Club is a total IYKYK, where locals and hip Houstonians gather for pool parties that are less about raging and IG stories and more about low-key vibes. For the last weekend of the season, the club is offering day passes for $20. Sip on $4 beers, at-cost champagne, and a bunch of great cocktail specials. DJ/podcaster Jason Stewart (who also goes by @themjeans on Instagram – we just thought that was funny) will be keeping everything cool and groovy with his DJ set on Sunday. 11 am (Noon Sunday).

Still Here at East End Backyard

Swishahouse, The Waxx Club, and others are coming together to throw a bash that celebrates 50 years of hip-hop and family. There will be a hip-hop stage where MCs and DJs (along with graffiti artists, who’ll get together for a graff session) will do their thing. But there will also be a synthesized area, where such DJs as DJ Comp 1, Steve Swift, and Joe B will be spinning everything from hip-hop to funk to reggae to soul all through the night. 6 pm.

Houston Museum of African American Culture presents The Art of Making It

This 2022 documentary explores the art-world ecosystem through the prism of young artists at pivotal moments in their careers, revealing the secret sauce that thrusts some into the stratosphere and leaves others struggling to survive. Why does it matter who we anoint to tell the stories of our time? Including the voices of luminaries and disruptors, the film leaves one to question whether the new world order will make art more accessible for all. The screening will be followed by a conversation with producer Debi Wisch. 7:30 pm.

Sunday, September 24

Brews & Browse End of Summer Market

This weekend, Urban South HTX will say goodbye to this hot-as-heck season with an end-of-summer market. Bring the entire family out for a fun filled day of surprises including a bounce house, face painting, raffle prizes, market vendors, food, treats, and more. GastroCraft will be there at noon, serving some delicious gastro pub fare. This family, dog-friendly event is free to the public. 1 pm.

Avant-Art Gallery Soft Opening

Aspen-based painter and gallerist Christopher Martin’s eponymous Upper Kirby gallery is changing names and ownership. The high-profile Houston Gallery Row business is being reborn under former Christopher Martin Gallery directors Ally Ondarza and Abigail Henningsen. The gallery will host its soft opening to debut “Emerging Perspectives.” The exhibit will feature artwork from their entire portfolio of artists to share their community vision. Through Saturday, October 14. 2 pm.

Bert Kreischer: Tops Off World Tour

After starring in his very own movie The Machine (where Mark Hamill played his dad!), comedian, actor, podcaster, and author Bert Kreischer is back to take off his shirt and do some good ol’ stand-up. He also has his fifth stand-up special, Razzle Dazzle, on Netflix. Shameless and shirtless as ever, Kreischer spills on bodily emissions, being bullied by his kids, and the explosive end to his family's escape room outing. We’re sure he’ll hit you with more tales of family hell when he hits the Toyota Center stage. 7 pm.

Countdown to Beyoncé: Party, dance, shine – and stretch — at these Houston events honoring Queen Bey

bey there, do that

Houston is just days away from Beyoncé’s big Renaissance tour homecoming this weekend. The lights don’t go down at NRG Stadium until Saturday, September 23, but as Bey’s song says, we like to party. That means plenty of events and food and drink specials to toast the Queen.

Locals in the Beyhive who are still searching for those perfect Bey-inspired looks can show them off at these fun happenings, which include silent disco jams, a huge downtown party, Bey-themed yoga, and a special exhibit of Beyoncé’s most legendary photo.

Break out those flawless silver threads and get ready to slay at these Beyoncé events in Houston.

Thursday, September 21

Color Factory will immerse fans with a Beyoncé playlist running inside its silent disco all weekend long. The immersive art experience has teamed up with Houston legend DJ Rob G to elevate the fan-favorite disco to a party fit for the Queen and her BeyHive. 10 am.

Post Oak Hotelis “Calling All the Single Ladies” to exclusive helipad yoga classes. Attendees are encouraged to come dressed slaying in silver. Tickets are $200 per person and includes access to the pool after class. 5 and 6:45 pm.

02 Loungewill host a video and live music tribute to Beyoncé, presented by The Vibe Curator Keto Gentry The Consultant. It’s also known as a Touch of Silver Ladies Freakum Dress Theme Party. 8 pm.

Friday, September 22

The Warwickserves up two exclusive, Beyoncé-themed cocktails. Sip on a blackberry tequila lemondrop known as Alien Superstar. Later, order up a smooth sidecar riff they call the Pure/Honey Lemonade. 11 am.

Blossom Hotel raises a glass to Beyoncé's H-Town stop with a specially crafted, themed cocktail menu, including the Crazy in Love and the Break My Soul. Bonus points: The Blossom Hotel is less than 10 minutes away from where Blue Ivy’s mom will take center stage. 4 pm.

Nosie Yogiis making a strong pull by bringing back Bey-Asana, the original Beyoncé inspired yoga class. For one night only, participants can stretch in an all-level, non-heated flow session set to Queen Bey’s music. Registration is $20. 6:30 pm.

Saturday, September 23

Tootsies and Nicole Longnecker Gallery will celebrate both Beyoncé and celebrity photographer Markus Klinko. The artist will be in attendance, along with many of his larger-than-life photographs of A-list celebs like David Bowie, Lady GaGa, and Beyoncé, including the iconic cover photo of her debut album Dangerously in Love. Fans can also look forward to a close-up view of Klinko’s Diamond Dust images of Queen Bey in her unforgettable, diamond-studded spiderweb top and jeans — which she says are her favorite. 1 pm.

Radio Milano at The Moran CITYCENTRE presents a Queen Bey Kick Off, offering specialty cocktails inspired by Beyoncé’s greatest hits. Dance and sing along while sipping on such Beyoncé-inspired libations as the Cuff It and the Heated. 4 pm.

The Plaza at Avenida Houston invites the city to Hou Run the World: Beyoncé’s Homecoming Party on the Plaza. This welcome-home bash will feature live music, fireworks, and outdoor fun. Be sure to stick around for the special drone show: More than 400 drones will light up the evening sky, creating Beyoncé-related themes to dazzle viewers. Event runs at The Plaza at Avenida Houston (between the George R. Brown Convention Center and Discovery Green Park). 6:30 pm-8:45 pm

Sunday, September 24

Bar Boheme treats Bey-loving — and brunch-loving — fans to a special, Renaissance-edition drag brunch. Enjoy delicious brunch fare, live music from DJ Athenz, and a Beyoncé-themed drag show where performers pull out all the stops to Beyoncé hits. Registration is required. 11 am.

Da Hookah Plug Lounge makes a splash with a Beyoncé & Brunch Paint & Sip Special. They’ve got the music to karaoke to, food, hookahs, and more. Guests who wish to paint must RSVP under one of the painting tickets. 12:30 pm.

Bar Louieshakes things up with a perfectly pink diva martini for Beyoncé weekend. Enjoy an array of happy hour specials, including $6 premium liquors, $7 signature martinis, $7 select house cocktails, $6 wine by the glass, 50 percent off select bar bites and more. 4 pm.

Next week: Thursday, September 28

Rooftop Cinema Club goes open air with A Queen Bey Rooftop Party. The night starts at 7 pm, where a DJ will spin tunes as tunes during a pre-game cocktail hour. Then comes a special screening of the 2001 cult classic Carmen: A Hip Hopera — starring a young Beyoncé, natch — and directed by Robert Townsend.

After the film, head to the lounge area for a silent disco/dueling DJ battle featuring electrifying Beyoncé-inspired sets. Choose the channel through the wireless headphones and move to the left, to the left all night. Live DJ set and games run 7 pm-8 pm; movie runs 8 pm-9:30 pm; dueling DJ sets and silent disco run 9:30 pm-11:30 pm.

Houston pizza maestro retools his wildly successful new Heights restaurant after overwhelming response

that's a lot of pizza

Pizza-loving Houstonians have accomplished something that once seemed impossible. They’ve left chef Anthony Calleo speechless — sort of.

The first week of service at Gold Tooth Tony’s, Calleo’s new Detroit-style pizzeria in the Heights, has so vastly exceeded his expectations that he’s had to rethink his plans for operating the restaurant. Even with limited hours of 4-10 pm, it’s been selling out of pizza. As a reminder, Calleo has sold Houstonians a lot of pizza between the Pi Pizza food truck, the Pi Pizza restaurant, and in his current role as executive chef and co-owner of Montrose favorite Rudyard’s.

“I’ve done this before. I’ve sold a bunch of pizza. We know how to do that. The fact that we’re running out of food, we didn't really expect,” Calleo tells CultureMap. “What we thought we’d do in a 14-hour day after a couple months of practice is what we’re doing in a three-and-a-half hour day.”

He adds that on Sunday Gold Tooth Tony’s sold more pizza in a single hour than in any hour he can remember from the Pi days. That’s a lot of pizza for a restaurant that occupies a 1,000-square-foot former doughnut shop.

Having survived a hectic weekend, Calleo closed on Monday and Tuesday to give its cooks a well-deserved break. The restaurant reopened for dinner today (Wednesday, September 20) with dough that he and chef Adam Bitner made for the restaurant.

In the meantime, he’s ordered more pizza pans and is looking into adding a larger walk-in cooler to deal with the unexpected demand. Whatever he decides, it will be done with his staff in mind.

“I’m not going to grind those dudes into dust. They deserve a break. They busted their ass for us at a brand new job,” he says. “They did great, period.”

Part of meeting the demand for pizza means temporarily slimming down the menu by cutting dishes such as queso and mac and cheese. Although Calleo had planned to roll out lunch as soon as this week, the restaurant will remain dinner only for now.

“I didn’t get into this business to tell people no, but it’s mathematics and physics. If I could argue with those, I wouldn’t be a chef — I’d be a super villain,” he says.

Meanwhile, the search has already begun for a second location. Calleo aims to strike while the iron is hot — and Houstonians are eating him out of pizza.